The Optimistic Walker: make sure you do the right things...

David Bathurst shares his passion for walking and explains why it might just be what we all need in these difficult times - particularly when we are in a county as beautiful as Sussex.

David Bathurst
David Bathurst

One of the positive aspects of lockdown is the fact that, unable as we are to seek out far-flung destinations for the time being, we have more time to enjoy our own locality. We’re being discouraged from using public transport, so what better way of exploring than on foot. We can set off on foot from home, or we can use our cars or bikes to take us to the start of our walks.

We’ve been blessed with some great weather over the past few weeks, and with the summer months stretching ahead of us, it’s reasonable to hope for more good weather to come. As the days get hotter, though, it may be tempting to sit at home or in the garden, or stay in a park or on the beach, without going for walks.

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In fact, providing you do the right things, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy a good walk on even the hottest days.

So what do I mean by doing the right things? To start with, make sure you take a bottle of water with you, and drink regularly and often from the moment you set out so that your body remains hydrated. You may be tempted to think there’s no point in drinking till you’re thirsty, but this is a common misconception. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated and it’s too late – water can then only provide temporary relief. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t bring and enjoy other fluids with you: alcohol and fizzy drinks aren’t to be recommended, but flavoured sports drinks are tasty and help replenish essential minerals, and a thermos of tea or coffee is always a welcome treat. But non-sparkling water is still the best way of staying hydrated.

Wear sensible clothes. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s actually better to cover up when walking in heat. You might think wearing a vest/T-shirt and shorts would be logical, but actually you’re running the risk of exposing your skin to the sun’s rays, and without an effective sun block this could be both painful and harmful. A loose long-sleeved top and jogging bottoms are best, plus, of course, a sun hat. It’s not exactly glamorous but comfort needs to come before everything else. As for footwear, then unless you’re heading for the heights, trainers or Converse are ideal on dry ground. Sandals, other than specialist walking sandals, aren’t to be recommended for long walks – they simply won’t be strong enough – while walking boots are likely to leave your feet very hot.

Seek out cooler greener places to walk. We are blessed in Sussex with huge acreages of woodland. In the summer all our trees including deciduous ones will be in leaf, and their canopies of green will provide welcome shade from the heat of the sun. Also, at a time when many of our areas of open grass will be parched and burnt and less than pleasant to the eye, you’ll always find green in woodland, whether on the leaves of the trees or the variety of plant life on the woodland floor. Last week I walked from Warningcamp near Arundel to the top of Barpham Hill above Angmering Park, and as I was returning to Warningcamp after a walk exposed to hot sun, I entered woodland and was instantly refreshed by the shade of the thick green leaves of the trees above. It made a perfect end to my walk.

So as the weather heats up, continue to enjoy our beautiful Sussex countryside in comfort and safety.